CULTURAL CRITIQUE AND ANALYSIS: HAVING THE CONVERSATIONJuly 7, 2012
For quite some time both here and in other venues (chiefly the Byte Show and in the members' area on this site), I have been talking about the necessity for informed people to reclaim the culture, and in many instances I have coupled this to yet another idea, that standard political action, particularly in a political system as corrupt as that which the USA's has become, is really not a long term strategy that, in my opinion, will work. "Working within the system" appears only to recruit otherwise decent people into the prevailing corruption.
By this I have meant that we need a deep conversation -- a deep analysis and critique -- of the memes and institutions we take for granted. Repeatedly I have attempted to point out that we live in a culture of extraordinary cognitive dissonance, and let me give but one example. In the USA - and I imagine there are analogies to be found in other Western countries - the Constitution itself is viewed in quasi-religious terms, as a kind of deified, sacred text, on the one hand, while simultaneously, it is a document that in practice the political left and right really pay little attention to. Thus, even to suggest the idea that it might be a deeply flawed document, needing careful scrutiny, is tantamount in some circles to a kind of political heresy.
Or, take this article from the Daily Bell, which is precisely the sort of cultural "deep analysis" that I have in mind:
The Daily Bell is here correct, but I suggest even here, we need to go deeper. Central banking has thrived in the USA as in no other country previously in history, in spite of Constitutional provisions that would imply or suggest that such an institution was the farthest thing from the mind of the Founding Fathers. Thus, there is a deeply seated meme or attitude of anti-historicism in American culture, and to the extent America influences the rest of the West, in the West at large. This attitude is that history began in 1776. But the rise of modern central banking is an old story, go far back into history, when the contemporary playbook of what the Daily Bell is rightly calling a tiny viscious cabal, was being formulated. We cannot ignore the deep historical roots of that story, and if we do, we do so to our own peril.
But even that idea - that the founding fathers implicitly wrote the constitution in order to curb the "money power" - is itself one of those memes (in this case, emanating from the libertarian and conservative right), that needs to be examined. Is it really true? We need only recall that almost as soon as the current constitutional system was ratified, Alexander Hamilton was in bed with that very same money power, concocting a scheme to monetize the debt incurred by the original thirteen States during the revolution. Had the founding fathers intended to clearly prohibit the establishment of central banking, doubtless they could have written a clause "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a special exclusive or corporate privilege to loan money to the federal government," or words to that effect.
Deep cultural analysis, is however, suggested by The Daily Bell in another sense, with the reference to Ayn Rand, and their suspicions that she had some hidden agenda. Rand is, of course, a heroine to the libertarian segment of society as a champion of rigorous non-governmental intervention and philosophy.
Yet, a close look at that most architectonic of all novels, Atlas Shrugged, reveals something that always profoundly disturbed me. There are two central characters in that novel - Midas Mulligan, a thinly disguised version of JP Morgan - and of course, the central character, John Galt, who invented a radical new engine, and radical new source of energy, a much more carefully disguised Nikola Tesla. In the novel, of course, the two men are bosom buddies, and Galt withdrew his technology from the world voluntarily.But the reality was otherwise, an in that reality that is obfuscated in the novel, we find, perhaps, the agenda: Morgan was, of course, one of the leading forces behind the creation of the Federal reserve, and was instrumental in the suppression of Tesla's wireless power technology. To my knowledge, this discrepancy - and the possible agenda that it suggests about Rand herself - has never been openly discussed.
We could go on and on, but my point here is in line with the implications of the Daily Bell article, namely, that the cultural critique and conversation was basically put on hold for a century, with the media consolidation into a few corporate and oligarchical hands. With the internet, we now have a window of opportunity to have that conversation, and to have it on a global scale. We must leave no cultural stone unturned, no widely accepted meme - even those of long standing or quasi-sacred status, unturned. And as always, we must beware especially the extreme elements on either end of the dialectic of left and right.
See you on the flip side.